The world seems muted, happiness inaccessible, even when everything is seemingly going my way.
My first problem? I'm a Leo. I fall in love hard and fast — and often. And while it's great and exciting and fun and amazing at the same time, it leaves a wake of broken heart pieces scattered across the floor.
My second problem is that I compare my past men with my current man. I've always done this from the time I had my very first boyfriend (who I compared to the ideal of romantic relationships presented to my preteen mind in all the rom-coms I watched). The next boyfriend got compared to the first, the third boyfriend compared to the previous two, and so on.
This cycle continued until my first real heartbreak in my early twenties, when I sat in the passenger seat of my boyfriend's car sobbing because I knew he was dumping me. I remember screaming at him, "Don't you see how wrong this is?" and then crying until only heaving remained.
It wasn't pretty, and it's stuck with me ever since.
I thought of that moment as I walked down the aisle to marry my first husband a few years later, a man I fully admit shouldn't have been my choice. I knew it then, but I was still depressed about the breakup before, and I was just excited to have someone caring for me again.
My then-husband worked the night shift and while he was gone I fell into my compare-contrast routine. I would read journal entries from when I was dating that boyfriend. I would look at pictures of our adventures together. I would imagine what our life would be like if we had stayed together.
And then I would take all those happy moments and show them to my lackluster marriage, asking why my then-husband and I couldn't be that happy. I fully admit that, in a way, that comparison helped contribute to my eventual divorce.
Now that I've moved on years later, I still think about what it would be like to have that boyfriend with me in certain places. And momentarily, I miss him. I feel that familiar pang in my chest, that hollow feeling that comes when you know you've lost something important.
I think about the fun we had — the places we traveled to, the hiking, the parties — and conveniently ignore all the bad that was lurking under the surface. It usually passes in a matter of minutes, long enough for my emotions to even out and my internal monologue to ask WTF is wrong with me?
It took me a long time to realize that it's not about my ex-boyfriend anymore. I don't miss him, exactly — I miss the idea of him. The deep friendship we had before and throughout our relationship, the emotional connection we shared.
He was a huge part of my life for such a long period of time and the first person I ever truly loved. Of course I miss that. You always remember the first. Luckily, it doesn't have the same impact on me that it used to.
I'm thankfully now happily married to the man I know in my bones to be my soulmate. Whether I miss my ex sometimes is completely irrelevant because it doesn't change a single thing about my relationship.
But I will say that although it can stress me out, missing my ex helps me appreciate what I have a whole lot more. If I hadn't gone through that breakup, I wouldn't be where I am now. And I remember the bad now too, not just the good.
I can see my ex from a distance and see his failings, which are places my husband excels. The comparison has changed from a question of "Who's better?" to a statement of "I know this is better." And if it takes missing my ex to remember that, then fine — I'll take it.